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Cover image via Eli Lucero, AP. 

In a tiny chapel just a few miles from the Vatican, 40 young men and women have put on their best clothes and gathered to worship Jesus.

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In the simple wood-paneled room, the congregation begins singing hymns and sharing personal testimonies.

But in a country where nearly 90% of people consider themselves Catholic, these young Italian worshippers are not; they’re Mormons, and they are adding to the religious mix.

Mormons in Rome say they encounter no prejudice — simply curiosity from their friends.

“This is something I love. I don’t see it as a sacrifice,” says Michela Banchini, a 22-year-old university student. “We have a different way of living our lives.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an estimated 26,000 members in Italy, with the biggest missions based in Milan and Rome. The church’s outreach is extensive, with more than 100 congregations reaching as far as the Swiss border in the north and to Sardinia and Sicily in the south. Church leaders say the faithful are represented in almost every major city.

Despite the predominance of the Catholic Church, particularly in Rome, Mormons are looking to the future with the imminent opening of a new temple and visitors center that church elders hope will draw more converts.

“There’s a lot of excitement right now because of the new temple,” says Alessandro Dini Ciacci, the church’s representative in Italy. “There are a lot of requests for information and many are deciding to join the church.”

The 40,000-square-foot temple with two spires is being constructed northeast of central Rome just inside the beltway that encircles the Italian capital.

To see the rest of the article on USA Today, click here